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Cornyn renews effort to strengthen open government

Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Reform Freedom of Information Act

From the Office of Senator John Cornyn

March 28, 2007

Government - Senator Cornyn picture WASHINGTON—Building on his efforts to strengthen public access to government information, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, March 13 joined Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in introducing the bipartisan OPEN Government Act of 2007, which would make the most significant reforms of the Freedom of Information Act in more than a decade. This renewed effort comes during the third annual Sunshine Week, a week devoted to creating a dialogue about government transparency and the public’s ability to access information.

At a press conference on Capitol Hill March 13, Sen. Cornyn said, “Freedom of information and openness in government are among the most fundamental founding principles of our government. Accountability is only an empty promise without transparency. Our legislation will provide citizens and journalists with more information and make our great American democracy even stronger. It strengthens the view that the Freedom of Information Act establishes a presumption of openness, and that our government is based not on the need to know, but upon the fundamental right to know.”

Sen. Cornyn added: “Open government is an ethic. The citizen on the telephone asking about a three-year-old FOIA request isn’t a nuisance to be placed on hold; in fact, he or she is our boss and the government needs to be accountable to him or her.”

The bipartisan OPEN Government Act contains more than a dozen substantive provisions, designed to achieve the following four objectives:

  • (1) Strengthen FOIA and close loopholes
  • (2) Help FOIA requestors obtain timely responses to their requests
  • (3) Ensure that agencies have strong incentives to act on FOIA requests in a timely fashion
  • (4) Provide FOIA officials with all of the tools they need to ensure that our government remains open and accessible

Sen. Cornyn noted that Texas has one of the strongest laws in the U.S. expanding freedom of government information. “Our state is known for allowing citizens access to government records and requiring that the material be produced quickly. In the Senate, I’ve made a point of trying to bring some of that ‘ Texas sunshine’ and openness to Washington . We have made some significant progress. I hope our colleagues will support this important bill.”

Sen. Cornyn serves on the Armed Services, Judiciary and Budget Committees. In addition, he is Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Border Security and Refugees subcommittee and the Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee.

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